With the opportunities of virtual and augmented reality for aviation training enticing many professionals all over the world, businesses find themselves considering not only the advantages but also the possible challenges of such technologies. According to Konradas Dulka, Product Director at Sensus Aero, a new-gen software solution for the aviation industry, Virtual Reality applications can be both easy and troublesome.
“VR application challenges come in many different forms – some technical, while others lie in the human factor,” he shares. “So, while these technologies are valuable and allow us to improve training processes and engage trainees at the same time, we have to stay vigilant when addressing these challenges.”
The Product Director explains that one of the main challenges is optimisation. “At Sensus Aero, we have experimented with a number of different VR engines, which all have distinct advantages. However, regardless of what engine you choose, you need to spend a lot of time on optimizations. If you base your strategy on only realistic graphics, great sound effects, good procedure step-by-step guidance, your product will not automatically be great,” Dulka explains. “In my mind, the global optimisations actually define the product, allowing for it to be used for a longer time even by those, who have not tried anything like that before.”
While in VR training a real-life procedure is simulated, not everything needs to be trained. “We are concentrating only on the procedural steps to make the training quicker and more concentrated. This means that every step of VR simulation creation must be considered very carefully – what do we want to be a part of simulation and what is not that important,” Konradas Dulka shares. “Our research has shown that during the simulation if there are parts of training when inside VR simulation you are moving without doing anything, for example riding a bus as a passenger, half of the people experience head spinning. Therefore, here we give the option for the instructor to disable the part and move to the next stage. In other words, the VR personalisation must be present, as no one is the same.”
One other major challenge is onboarding. If a person has not tried VR previously, it takes on average around 10 minutes to onboard them. “We usually recommend starting the training with easier procedures, just to get used to the controls and the feeling itself. Unlike ERP systems or mobile apps, VR gives you the feeling of immersion – the user starts to believe he is inside the simulation and here we can help them develop the right habits. If onboarding has been done in the right way, Sensus Aero VR training mode can easily guide users through the steps – even if the procedure is quite complicated. And that’s it! After the onboarding users can be self-sufficient and execute training by themselves, which means a lower load on the trainer’s schedule,” he shares his insights.
The harder the procedure, the higher the chance of mistakes and the return on investment of VR suddenly skyrockets. “One of the harder procedures we had to adapt to VR was into-plane fuelling. The complexity of a huge number of steps, and replication of fuelling panels, trucks and sequences was truly a challenge. You cannot replicate “more or less” and hope that users will believe it – it must be exactly replicated graphically, ensuring that control interaction is as realistic as possible. Additionally, you have to tune everything according to the business itself, as the company might be using different trucks where controls differ, clients aircraft fleet can consists of many different aircraft types and so on,” he explains. “Our recommendation is to concentrate on the most common mistakes and start from there. Additionally, unlike real-life training, with Sensus Aero into-plane fuelling VR we can simulate the overpressure or fire hazard, which in real-life practice it is just not possible to do. It is always good to know, that your staff is prepared for all situations, not only the “positive” sequence. We believe that with VR training integration we can enhance the safety of aviation and minimise the risk of the human factor. “
While some markets are quick adopters of new tech, others are on the slower side. However, everybody understands, that currently, the industry is at the breaking point with a significant shift of next-gen technology adaptation just around the corner. And with the positive ROI of VR and the significant improvements in aviation safety it allows for, it is safe to say that soon aviation training will look very different.